Trauma’s Influence on Relationships: Clients’ Perspectives at an Intimate Partner Violence Intervention Program
Although individuals who engage in intimate partner violence (IPV) report high rates of trauma exposure, it is unclear whether they perceive a link between trauma exposures and relationship problems, which traumas are seen as most influential, and whether such perceptions accurately reflect their relationship difficulties. Ninety-four men presenting for IPV intervention services reported their exposure to 22 adverse and potentially traumatic events (APTEs), and were asked whether these events had influenced the way that they think, act, or feel in relationships. APTEs were categorized based on whether or not they appeared to represent PTSD Criterion A traumatic events. Additionally, participants completed self-report measures of IPV use, partner injuries, emotional abuse, relationship problems, emotion regulation difficulties, and PTSD symptoms. Nearly half (43.6%) of the sample reported that one or more APTEs had influenced the way they function in relationships. Of the 92 reports of non-Criterion A APTEs, 42.4% were endorsed as relationship-influencing, whereas only 19.7% of the 310 occurrences of Criterion A APTEs were endorsed as relationship-influencing. The number of relationship-influencing APTEs reported was positively correlated with emotional abuse, relationship problems, emotion regulation difficulties, and PTSD symptoms. In contrast, the number of non-relationship-influencing APTEs reported was only correlated with emotional abuse. Findings from this exploratory study (1) demonstrate the ability of clients receiving IPV services to discern which APTEs have relevance to their relationships; (2) suggest the benefits of considering non-Criterion A APTEs; and (3) indicate the need for trauma- informed IPV intervention services.
KeywordsTrauma Abuse IPV Domestic violence Intimate relationship PTSD Emotion regulation Relationship problems
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